Tuesday 25 July 2017

Commemorating The Life of Jane Austen + Katya Frankel's Kitty's Chemise

Image courtesy of
Bodleian Library
Did you know that author Jane Austen was between 5 feet 6 and 8 inches tall and skinner in her 30s than the current model du jour Kate Moss?

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death. I discovered the titbit of information about her figure when I recently visited an exhibition celebrating her life and work at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

I've been a fan of Austen's novels ever since studying Pride and Prejudice for A level English Literature. Further undergraduate and Masters degrees in English Lit didn't dampen my enthusiasm for her. Indeed, I remember rationing her novels rather than bingeing on them and the subsequent sadness I felt when I finished her sixth knowing there were no more left to read...

Even if you've not read any of Austen's novels then it's likely that the BBC's 1995 Pride and Prejudice television adaptation, making a star out of actor Colin Firth playing a smouldering, wet breeches-clad Mr Darcy (although a BBC news story burst the fantasies of many women by showing what Regency period Mr Darcy would probably have actually looked like - and it involves a grey wig). Since then the film and television remakes of Austen's novels have kept on coming, but, whilst they are very entertaining, none can live up to the wit of her sparkling prose.

Pride & Preju-Knits

In 2016 I had the pleasure of reviewing a book, Pride & Preju-Knits, containing patterns to knit your favourite characters from Austen's novels.

Whether it be Lydia and Wickham's wedding in Pride and Prejudice:

Image courtesy of Geraldine Warner

Anne Eliot playing the piano forte for Persuasion's Captain Wentworth:

Image courtesy of Geraldine Warner

Or our heroine's wedding in Emma, there are plenty of patterns for Austen fans to knit! Which character would you cast on first?

Image courtesy of Geraldine Warner

Geraldine Warner, the book's author (who writes under the pseudonym Trixie Von Purl) has even made a short movie mash up featuring her knitted characters. Watch it on her website - scroll down the page to play the embedded youtube movie.

Which Jane Austen?

Image courtesy of Bodleian Library
As well as finding out about Austen's figure at the Which Jane Austen? exhibition there was lots to discover about her writing inspiration and the culture in which she lived.

For me, to see her handwritten letters and manuscripts, her portable writing desk and a replica of the silk pelisse coat she bought with her writing earnings, was thrilling. The objects and contexts - from her childhood to the influence of the war with France and her trips to cosmopolitan society in London - really brought Austen's character alive in my imagination and challenged the perceived image of her as a middle-aged spinster living a quiet life in the back of beyond. No knitting was there, but there was a needlework sampler on display reputed to be Austen's.

Whilst I waxed lyrical about the exhibition my husband was rather more appreciative of our next stop, the Turf Tavern, reputedly Oxford's oldest pub. He declared Which Jane Austen? to be like watching paint dry, only more boring!

Kitty's Chemise

I was delighted to hear that talented Newcastle-based designer Katya Frankel has timely re-released her Kitty's Chemise pattern, which can be downloaded on Ravelry for £4.

Image courtesy of Katya Frankel
It's inspired by the undergarment a gentile young lady such as at Kitty in Pride and Prejudice would have worn, and in the 21st century makes a great t-shirt rather than a vest!

Image courtesy of Katya Frankel

Kitty's Chemise is knitted in the round from the bottom up in panels of stockinette and reverse-stockinette stitch The photographs of the back of the chemise (above and below) show this well.

Image courtesy of Katya Frankel

The chemise is fitted at the waist. It has ribbing at the hem and i-cord trim at the neck and sleeves. Whilst the prescribed yarn on the pattern isn't British, Brityarn has a selection of homegrown DK yarns to substitute it with. It goes without saying to knit a tension square first.

I haven't had time to knit this pattern yet - such was the rush to blog about it - but I will choose one of the following yarns that are easy to wash and soft against the skin:
  1. West Yorkshire Spinners' Illustrious DK - I've a penchant for the delicate green that is 'Sea Glass'
  2. The Knitting Goddess' Merino Sparkle DK - its sparkles would make a great going out top for the evening
  3. Blacker Yarns' Lyonesse DK - this wool and linen blend gives a more lightweight knit and offers a more autumnal palette of shades than the other two choices. 

More Jane Austen

To find out about more events taking place to mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death, visit the Jane Austen 200 website.

For details of the crafts that a gentlewoman would have indulged in during the Regency period - and it's not just knitting and needlework - see Emily Hendrickson's Regency Craft & Pastimes post.

No comments:

Post a Comment

© A Woolly Yarn. Powered by